Sean A. Parks
790 East Beckwith Avenue
Contact Sean A. Parks
My research is currently focused on three broad topics. First, I am investigating the role of wildland fire in acting as a fuel treatment. That is, I am quantifying how past wildland fire affects subsequent fire spread, severity, size, etc. Second, I am conducting studies that identify the relationship between climate and fire regimes. One of the primary goals of this research is to better understand how climate change will affect fire regime characteristics. Third, I am identifying factors that are likely to result in fire-facilitated conversion from forest to non-forest. Many, but certainly not all, of my studies are conducted using data from designated wilderness or other protested areas (e.g., National Parks). The relevancy of my research, however, is applicable across all land designations.
I am interested in spatial interactions between past wildland fire and subsequent fire events. I am specifically interested in how past fires “regulate” subsequent fires in terms of fire size, severity, ignition potential, etc. I am also keenly interested in better understanding how climate shapes fire regimes, which is particularly relevant given that climate change will inevitably result in changes to fire regimes. Furthermore, I am interested in identifying those factors that control conifer seedling establishment and survival (i.e., regeneration). Other research interests include satellite detection of fire effects and spread, retrospective evaluations of the influence of weather and topography on fire behavior, and the restoration of fire as a natural process. Designated wilderness and similarly protected areas are excellent “laboratories” for conducting much of this work because there is minimal human infrastructure (e.g., roads) and, in several protected areas, many fires are not actively suppressed. I also have non-fire research interests, primarily involving the field of “landscape genetics”, which uses genetic data to identify landscape features (e.g., topography, vegetation) that inhibit or facilitate movement (or connectivity) between individuals/populations of flora and fauna.
- Exploiting remotely sensed data to better understand fire behavior and effects: I took the lead in developing a 1) method for fine-resolution mapping of fire progression, or day of burning, using very coarse satellite (MODIS) fire detection data and 2) new burn severity metric using Landsat imagery called the relativized burn ratio (RBR).
- Corridor/connectivity modelling: I contributed to several projects modelling the connectivity of wolverine, lynx, and mountain beaver.
- Evaluating approaches for mapping burn probabilities for a quantitative risk analysis framework: I contributed to several projects that involved the use of fire simulation models to map the probability of burning in several large protected areas.
- Biogeography, island biogeography, and extinctions in protected areas: In a past life, I was involved with several research projects that evaluated 1) factors responsible for primate species distributions and 2) extinctions within protected areas.
Why This Research is Important
Wildland fire is one of the most pervasive and important ecological processes on the planet, and although the Forest Service spends in excess of one billion dollars per year suppressing fire, large areas of land burn each year. Consequently, there is a growing recognition that our society needs to better co-exist with wildland fire and that it should be restored as an ecological process to some landscapes. How to best restore fire, however, is challenging because of excessive fuel buildup, risks to lives and property, and climate change. Designated wilderness and similarly protected lands turn out to be excellent “laboratories” for conducting studies on how fire naturally responds to climate, topography, weather, fuels, and past fires. As such, studies conducted in protected areas can provide information to managers, policy makers, the public, and other scientists that will better enable the restoration of fire as a natural process in a safe and effective manner.
- University of Montana, Ph.D. Forestry 2014
- University of California, Davis, M.A. Geography 2006
- University of California, Davis, B.S. Environmental Biology and Management 1998
- Research Ecologist, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute - RMRS
2015 - Current
- Ecologist, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute - RMRS
2008 - 2015
- Biological Scientist, LANDFIRE - RMRS
2006 - 2008
- Geographer, Pacific Southwest Research Station
2002 - 2006
Awards & Recognition
- Early Career Scientist Publication, 2015
Awarded by RMRS for: Parks SA, Holsinger LM, Miller C, Nelson CR (2015) Wildland fire as a self-regulating mechanism: the role of previous burns and weather in limiting fore spread. Ecol. Apps.
- Best Scientific Publication, 2013
Awarded by RMRS for my contribution to: Squires JR, DeCesare NJ, Olson LE, Kolbe JA, Hebblewhite M, Parks SA (2013) Combining resource selection and movement behavior to predict corridors for Canada lynx at their southern range periphery. Biol. Cons.
- Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research Award , 2013
Awarded for my contribution to: Larson AJ, Belote RT, Cansler CA, Parks SA, Dietz MS (2013) Latent resilience in ponderosa pine forest: effects of resumed frequent fire. Ecol. Apps.
- Best Scientific Publication, 2012
Awarded by RMRS for my contribution to: McKelvey KS, Copeland J, Schwartz MK, Littell JS, Aubry K, Squires JR, Parks SA, Elsner M, Mauger G (2011) Climate change predicted to shift wolverine distributions, connectivity, and dispersal corridors. Ecol. Apps
Featured Publications & Products
- Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Abatzoglou, John. 2015. Wildland fire deficit and surplus in the western United States, 1984-2012.
- Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Abatzoglou, John T.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Dobrowski, Solomon Z. 2016. How will climate change affect wildland fire severity in the western US.
- Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Baggett, Scott; Bird, Benjamin J. 2016. Wildland fire limits subsequent fire occurrence.
- Parks, Sean A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Miller, Carol; Nelson, Cara R. 2015. Wildland fire as a self-regulating mechanism: The role of previous burns and weather in limiting fire progression.
- Parks, Sean A.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Shaw, John D.; Miller, Carol . 2019. Living on the edge: Trailing edge forests at risk of fire-facilitated conversion to non-forest.
- Davis, Kimberley T.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Higuera, Philip E.; Holden, Zachary A.; Veblen, Thomas T.; Rother, Monica T.; Parks, Sean A.; Sala, Anna ; Maneta, Marco P. 2019. Wildfires and climate change push low-elevation forests across a critical climate threshold for tree regeneration.
- Parks, Sean A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Miller, Carol ; Parisien, Marc-Andre . 2018. Analog-based fire regime and vegetation shifts in mountainous regions of the western US.
- Abatzoglou, John T.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Parks, Sean A.; Hegewisch, Katherine C. 2018. Data Descriptor: TerraClimate, a high-resolution global dataset of monthly climate and climatic water balance from 1958-2015.
- Parks, Sean A.; Parisien, Marc‐Andre; Miller, Carol; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Baggett, Larry Scott. 2018. Fine-scale spatial climate variation and drought mediate the likelihood of reburning.
- Walker, Ryan B.; Coop, Jonathan D.; Parks, Sean A.; Trader, Laura. 2018. Fire regimes approaching historic norms reduce wildfire-facilitated conversion from forest to non-forest.
- Parks, Sean A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Panunto, Matthew H.; Jolly, W. Matt; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Dillon, Gregory K. 2018. High-severity fire: Evaluating its key drivers and mapping its probability across western US forests.
- Parks, Sean A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Voss, Morgan A.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Robinson, Nathaniel P. 2018. Mean composite fire severity metrics computed with Google Earth engine offer improved accuracy and expanded mapping potential.
- Parks, Sean A.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Panunto, Matthew H. 2018. What drives low-severity fire in the southwestern USA.
- Morgan, Penelope; Hudak, Andrew T.; Wells, Ashley; Parks, Sean A.; Baggett, L. Scott; Bright, Benjamin C.; Green, Patricia. 2017. Multidecadal trends in area burned with high severity in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area 1880-2012.
- Batllori, Enric; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Moritz, Max A.; Miller, Carol. 2017. Potential relocation of climatic environments suggests high rates of climate displacement within the North American protection network.
- Barnett, Kevin; Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Naughton, Helen T. 2016. Beyond fuel treatment effectiveness: Characterizing interactions between fire and treatments in the US.
- Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Parks, Sean A. 2016. Climate change velocity underestimates climate change exposure in mountainous regions.
- Coop, Jonathan D.; Parks, Sean A.; McClernan, Sarah R.; Holsinger, Lisa M. 2016. Influences of prior wildfires on vegetation response to subsequent fire in a reburned Southwestern landscape.
- Parisien, Marc-Andre; Miller, Carol; Parks, Sean A.; DeLancey, Evan R.; Robinne, Francois-Nicolas; Flannigan, Mike D. 2016. The spatially varying influence of humans on fire probability in North America.
- Holsinger, Lisa; Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol. 2016. Weather, fuels, and topography impede wildland fire spread in western US landscapes.
- Cooke, Brian; Parks, Sean; Miller, Carol; Holsinger, Lisa; Nelson, Cara; Holden, Zack; Baggett, Scott; Bird, Benjamin. 2016. Wildland fire: Nature s fuel treatment.
- Coop, Jonathan D.; Holsinger, Lisa; McClernan, Sarah; Parks, Sean A. 2015. Influences of previous wildfires on change, resistance, and resilience to reburning in a montane southwestern landscape.
- Parks, Sean A.; Dillon, Gregory K.; Miller, Carol. 2014. A new metric for quantifying burn severity: The Relativized Burn Ratio.
- Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Little, John M.; Flannigan, Mike D.; Gowman, Lynn M.; Moritz, Max A. 2014. An analysis of controls on fire activity in boreal Canada: comparing models built with different temporal resolutions.
- Parks, Sean A.; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Miller, Carol; Dobrowski, Solomon Z. 2014. Fire activity and severity in the western US vary along proxy gradients representing fuel amount and fuel moisture.
- Batllori, Enric; Miller, Carol; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Moritz, Max A. 2014. Is U.S. climatic diversity well represented within the existing federal protection network.
- Parks, Sean A. 2014. Mapping day-of-burning with coarse-resolution satellite fire-detection data.
- Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Nelson, Cara R.; Holden, Zachary A. 2014. Previous fires moderate burn severity of subsequent wildland fires in two large western US wilderness areas.
- Wang, Xianli; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Flannigan, Mike D.; Parks, Sean A.; Anderson, Kerry R.; Little, John M.; Taylor, Steve W. 2014. The potential and realized spread of wildfires across Canada.
- Squires, John R.; DeCesare, Nicholas J.; Olson, Lucretia E.; Kolbe, Jay A.; Hebblewhite, Mark; Parks, Sean A. 2013. Combining resource selection and movement behavior to predict corridors for Canada lynx at their southern range periphery.
- Schwartz, Michael; Saunder, Joel; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Vinkey, Ray; Lucid, Michael K.; Parks, Sean; Albrecht, Nathan. 2013. Fisher population and landscape genetics.
- Hossack, Blake R.; Lowe, Winsor H.; Honeycutt, R. Ken; Parks, Sean A.; Corn, Paul Stephen. 2013. Interactive effects of wildfire, forest management, and isolation on amphibian and parasite abundance.
- Larson, Andrew J.; Belote, R. Travis; Cansler, C. Alina; Parks, Sean A.; Dietz, Matthew S. 2013. Latent resilience in ponderosa pine forest: effects of resumed frequent fire.
- Parks, Sean A.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Schwartz, Michael K. 2012. Effects of weighting schemes on the identification of wildlife corridors generated with least-cost methods.
- Scott, Joe H.; Helmbrecht, Donald J.; Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol. 2012. Quantifying the threat of unsuppressed wildfires reaching the adjacent wildland-urban interface on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming.
- Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; Parks, Sean A.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K. 2012. Small geographic range but not panmictic: how forests structure the endangered Point Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra).
- Parks, Sean A.; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Miller, Carol. 2012. Spatial bottom-up controls on fire likelihood vary across western North America.
- McKelvey, Kevin S.; Copeland, Jeffrey P.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Littell, Jeremy S.; Aubry, Keith B.; Squires, John R.; Parks, Sean A.; Elsner, Marketa M.; Mauger, Guillaume S. 2011. Climate change predicted to shift wolverine distributions, connectivity, and dispersal corridors.
- Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Miller, Carol; Krawchuck, Meg A.; Heathcott, Mark; Moritz, Max A. 2011. Contributions of ignitions, fuels, and weather to the spatial patterns of burn probability of a boreal landscape.
- Parks, Sean A.; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Miller, Carol. 2011. Multi-scale evaluation of the environmental controls on burn probability in a southern Sierra Nevada landscape.
- Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Krawchuck, Meg A.; Flannigan, Mike D.; Bowman, Lynn M.; Moritz, Max A. 2011. Scale-dependent controls on the area burned in the boreal forest of Canada, 1980-2005.
- Bigelow, Seth W.; Parks, Sean A. 2010. Predicting altered connectivity of patchy forests under group selection silviculture.
- Davis, Brett H.; Miller, Carol; Parks, Sean A. 2010. Retrospective fire modeling: Quantifying the impacts of fire suppression.
- Manley, P.N.; Parks, S.A.; Campbell, Lori; Schlesinger, M.D. 2009. Modeling urban land development as a continuum to address fine-grained habitat heterogeneity.
- Manley, Patricia N.; Murphy, Dennis D.; Campbell, Lori A.; Heckmann, Kirsten E.; Merideth, Susan; Parks, Sean A.; Sanford, Monte P.; Schlesinger, Matthew D. 2006. Biotic diversity interfaces with urbanization in the Lake Tahoe basin.
|Mapping Fire Regimes in the Western United States|
Forest managers and policymakers are increasingly concerned about potential for increased fire activity and severity in future years. Although m ...
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Variable weather conditions have a dramatic influence on fire behavior and fire effects, but the influence of weather can be particularly diffic ...
|Quantifying the Ability of Wildfire to Act as a Fuel Break|
Forest Service scientists conducted a study using fire history atlases, fire progression maps, and weather station data to quantify the ability ...
|The Effectiveness of Wildfire as a Fuel Treatment|
New research results provide crucial information to land managers as they assess trade-offs associated with wildfire suppression and appropriate ...
|Wildland Fire Deficit and Surplus in the Western U.S.|
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|Wildland Fire: Nature’s Fuel Treatment|
In recent decades, many landscapes across the western United States have experienced substantial fire activity. These fires consume fuels and al ...
|Windows of Opportunity for Allowing Wilderness Fires to Burn|
A goal of fire management in wilderness is to allow fire to play its natural ecological role without intervention. Unfortunately, most unplanned ...